Where Are You Really From?: A Commentary on Ancestral Black Nova Scotian Identity


  • Keisha Jefferies Dalhousie University




Ancestral Black Nova Scotian, Black Health, Identity, Nova Scotia, Ancestry


The purpose of this commentary is to discuss Ancestral Black Nova Scotian (ABNS) identity, while advocating for the unified advancement of people of African descent (PAD) in Nova Scotia that is inclusive of ABNSs as a distinct people. I began critically examining identity and contemplating this issue during my doctoral research. As a Black feminist scholar, I have conducted reviews of literature related to PAD in Canada as well as in-depth qualitative research with ABNS nurses. My expertise on this matter is further informed by lived experience and ongoing discussions on intersectionality and Black health with mentors from across the diaspora. The sum of this insight has brought me to a change in the language that I use to describe ABNSs. I was inspired to share this commentary, at this time, for two reasons. The first—and more practical—reason involves my deepening understanding of language and identity and how I apply it in my work. The second—and more political and contentious—reason relates to the attempted erasure of ABNS identity. My position in this commentary is that of an advocate for ABNS identity alongside the unity of PAD in Nova Scotia. I acknowledge the extensive entanglement of identity with other important and multi-faceted issues, such as resource allocation; however, it is critical that these issues are understood as interconnected rather than conflated. For example, resource allocation has become so entangled with identity that the erasure of ABNS identity has become a symbolic master key to unlocking a metaphoric treasure chest. The differences that exist among PAD in Nova Scotia have created a welcomed shift in the demographic composition of the population. These shifts and unique differences mean that PAD in Nova Scotia are not a monolith, and this achievement is one to be acknowledged, celebrated, and embraced.

Author Biography

Keisha Jefferies, Dalhousie University

Dr. Jefferies is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University 


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